Do you believe that everything, everything, is in God’s Plan?
Some of us have lost a son or daughter to a highway accident, or worse, to drugs; two out of three have suffered a trial with cancer before fading away; millions have been unemployed for at least two years and have lost their self-worth along with a job; maybe you have suffered a separation and nasty divorce, along with the blended, and unblended, families that follow.
The point is that our lives are filled with trials. Fortunately, there is some balance provided by all the triumphs, the wonderful things that happen in our lives. Do we accept that they happen, at random, or do we envision a Lord up there pushing the reward or punish buttons according to our good or bad behavior? Some of us, especially as we get older, learn to expect the unexpected and simply pray for the strength, patience and wisdom to endure the trials and appreciate the triumphs.
Are you a sinner? Ever been a sinner? Join the club. We’re all sinners.
Those of us in Stephen Ministry wish it had never been called a ministry, because that says we members are some kind of ministers, holier than thou.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. We know full well that our value in the program is in direct relation to the number, and depth, of the sins and mistakes we have made in our own lives. Add to that the mistakes other people have made, the people we have served as caregivers, and you can be pretty sure that we’ve already experienced the troubles bothering you.
We’re not holy. We’re more like the ragged group of fishermen the Lord put up with.
But we are experienced, and we do care. We want to help you unload whatever package of sins or mistakes you have made. We’re sworn to secrecy, so no one else, no one, will ever know what the two of us talked about.
The Lord may be listening in, and that’s OK, because he’s the fixer.
In our many meetings with married men over the years, we discovered a pattern that contributes more to the destruction of a marriage than we realize. It’s called bickering, characterized by nasty digs, one-ups and put-downs delivered in a tone of voice suggesting that the one delivering them is far superior to the one receiving them and expects the latter to acknowledge that fact while on their knees. It begins in the early stages of a relationship with seemingly good-natured little references to what might be called a fault.
Repeated often enough, they become a fault-in-fact and get added to the collection and are soon delivered with gusto. It becomes a competition determining who can make the opponent feel worse, never mind who is right and who is wrong. Sad, because so many couples have failed to realize that all they have to do is STOP, agree to trade all that in on a hug and a smile, and a resolve to put the respect
back into the relationship.
Henri Nouwen has a great way of describing relationships. When two people first meet, one usually reveals something about herself/himself and puts it in the space between, to encourage the other to do the same; this exchange continues, back and forth, until the space between becomes filled with the two qualities that make for a strong relationship, respect and trust. Respect for one another, trust in one another.
That’s the kind of relationship that exists in our caregiving program. When we first meet with someone going through one of life’s trials, we establish that respect and trust by agreeing to talk openly, honestly and completely, assured that whatever is revealed remains in the space between the two of us. Of course, we hope the Creator has been listening in, too, and makes His presence known.
Hope is a word we use all the time.
Aristotle said, “Hope is a waking dream.”
Emily Dickinson said, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches on the soul, and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”
Most of the time, we hope for something to happen, or something we can’t make happen, or don’t want to happen, as in, “I hope he isn’t thinking about buying a new car.” Once in a while we do hope, and pray, in a spiritual way, and of course, we hope that our prayers are answered. We are assured that God will answer them, in his time and his way. His way kind of reminds us that we aren’t in total control down here.
“I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.” That quote is pure Rodney Dangerfield, and we can all relate to it. Funny how we still judge one another based on how much money we make, on our possessions. We say that money isn’t important, yet we never have enough. Most of the time, we don’t have enough compared to our wealthy neighbor, or enough to join the country club, or have a summer home on the lake or pay our kids’ tuition at a private school. We could feel inferior pretty quick, even a little resentful. Only natural. But then, we see that the rich aren’t any happier than those of us who have learned to get along on less.
One of the virtues of sculpting is that you can be thinking of something else while your hands are busy creating something that will be cherished for a lifetime. My something else is usually someone else’s problem.